There are many different paradigms in psychology, within which there are many different theories that attempt to explain human development. One of these explanations is using the behavioural approach and the learning theories. John Watson used the term Behaviourism to explain how development occurs due to behavioural changes learned through the environment (1924). One learning theory is classical conditioning that is based on work by Ivan Pavlov, who conditioned a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. Classical conditioning is the principle of creating a desired response to a specific stimulus; for example Pavlov’s dog had the unconditional response of salivation when he ate. The conditioned response is learned by association so when a bell was rang every time the dog ate, he learned to associate the bell with food therefore eventually developing the conditioned response of salivation at the sound of the bell (Boyd, & Bee 2009).
Another learning theory is operant conditioning that was created by B. F. Skinner (1948), which proposes that behaviour is learned by reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is being rewarded for a particular action therefore encouraging that action to be repeated. Punishment is when a child is disciplined for displaying certain behaviour in order to deter it from being repeated. People can learn to repeat their own behaviour following reinforcement or due to watching someone get rewarded for a certain action. This is known as vicarious reinforcement and can be linked with the social learning theory (Bandura 1977).
Both learning theories can be criticised for being environmentally deterministic as they suggest that the environment determines all behaviours, therefore ignoring free will and ability for individuals to control their behaviour (Delprato, & Midgley 1992).
The cognitive approach to development focuses on how children think and what causes behaviours to be repeated. Jean Piaget was a major influential...